A-Rod homers twice as Yanks end losing streak

Aaaand exhale. Boy, as badly as the Yankees needed Tuesday night’s win, I think we fans needed it more. We were all starting to get a loony over here. It sure was fun to finally get to back putting one … wait for it … on the left side*.

He's still got it. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

A-Bombs From A-Rod

I think I might have to start writing posts about how players need rest more often. Just a couple of hours after I said that Alex Rodriguez needed a day or three off, the Yankees’ cleanup hitter went out and hit a game-tying homerun in the fourth and a go-ahead homer in the sixth against the Rays. The first came off one of Jamie Shields’ patented two-strike changeups, a no-doubter deep into the left-center field seats. It was classic A-Rod, turning around the pitcher’s best pitch for a shot that reminds you just how absurdly talented he really is. The second homer was a 1-0 fastball out over the plate, not quite a no-doubter but a well-hit ball to dead center.

Alex’s slump has been the center attention during this rough stretch, but he now has three homers in his last six games and has actually hit safely in nine of his last dozen games. Two homers aren’t enough for me to declare the slump over, not even close, but it’s certainly an encouraging sign. The offense has such a different feel to it when he’s hitting, it’s not even funny.

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


Holy cow David Robertson. Ivan Nova predictably worked himself into a one out, bases loaded jam the half inning after A-Rod gave the Yankees a one run lead, but in fairness the third baserunner was put in intentionally. Joe Girardi stormed out of the dugout to lift his starter and give the ball to the only man qualified to escape the jam, Fireman David Robertson™.

The first batter was B.J. Upton, the same guy that hit the go-ahead homer the night before, but Robertson showed him no respect with six straight cutters that PitchFX clocked at 93, 94, 93, 94, 94, and 95. The first three were either fouled off or taken for strikes, the next two taken for balls, but Upton swung through the final one for a strikeout. That brought the certifiably terrible Casey Kotchman to the plate, a and he took a cutter (94) for strike one, fouled off a curve for strike two, then stared at a 96 mph cutter inside for the called strike three. Fireman David Robertson™ at his best.

I would have pulled Nova earlier in the inning, but I give Joe Girardi some props for not slaving to The Formula and saving Robertson for the seventh just because it’s “his inning” with Rafael Soriano on the shelf. He was clearly the best option at that point, so good for him for being a little more relaxed with his innings assignments. In terms of WPA, the two strikeouts improved the Yankees changes of winning by 13.3% and 12.9%, respectively. The total WPA of the inning was +0.262, which would qualify as the second greatest escape job of Robertson’s career. Bravo young man.

Not So Super Nova

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The final line says one run on four hits and two walks in 5.1 IP, but I thought Nova was extremely shaky in this one. He needed 20 pitches to get through the first (just one baserunner, a Johnny Damon single) and another 22 to get through a 1-2-3 second inning. The third inning required another 24 pitches, though it featured a homer and a single (thankfully in that order and not the other way around). Nova was seemingly behind in the count all night, and Rays fouled off one out of every five of his pitches en route to extending at-bats and making life miserable for the Yankees.

It was a classic bent but don’t break performance, but those are pretty common with young pitchers. They make you sweat, but hey, Nova got the job done at the end of the day, and that’s all that mattered on Tuesday night. But boy would I love him to find a strikeout pitch, that would make life so much easier.


Insurance runs! That Yankees haven’t scored many of those lately, leading to a few blown leads and losses, but they took advantage of some Rays’ errors and well-placed balls in play to score an extra two runs in both the seventh and ninth. Chris Dickerson blooped an RBI single into center for his first hit in pinstripes and Brett Gardner slapped a grounder just beyond a diving Elliot Johnson for another run in the final inning. Derek Jeter also drove in runs with a fielder’s choice and an infield single. The Yankees had four hits in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position and are now 7-for-14 in those spots over the last two games. Hooray.

Not dead yet. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Just to quickly recap the rest of the offense: Curtis Granderson took an 0-for-5 (you are forgiven, Curtis), Mark Teixeira went 1-for-3 with a walk, Russell Martin 1-for-4, and Brett Gardner finished 3-for-4 (including a gorgeous bunt base hit). Jorge Posada went 2-for-3 with a double in his first start since Friday, and believe it or not he’s not reached base in eight of his last 13 trips to the plate. I’ll take it. Robinson Cano went 1-for-4 with a strikeout and saw a total of six pitches. Do the math. Hint: that’s a three pitch strikeout and three first pitch balls in play. Jack Curry says hitting coach Kevin Long had a “heart-to-heart” talk with Robbie about being more selective at the plate since Monday, but since then he’s seen a total of 15 pitches in eight plate appearances since. Cano can get the bat on almost any pitch, but my concern is that he’s swinging at strikes just because they’re in the zone. Pitches in the zone aren’t always good to hit, he needs to learn (or be reminded) that taking a strike is okay every so often.

Joba Chamberlain, working for the third straight day, still ran his fastball up to 96, and although he didn’t strike anyone out, he also didn’t walk anyone and recorded all four outs on the ground. I’ll take it. Amaury Sanit was shaky with a five-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, so Girardi turned to Mariano Rivera for the final out to make sure the losing streak came to an end.

I’m so happy about the win that I won’t even make a big fuss over the latest stupid sacrifice bunt in an early inning, this time the third. Of course it didn’t work and the runner was stranded at second. They’ll learn one day, I hope.

WPA Graph & Box Score

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score and no highlights.

Up Next

The Yankees are heading to Baltimore for another quick two-game series starting Wednesday, when Bartolo Colon takes on Jeremy Guthrie.

* Michael Kay’d

More homers in another Charleston win

Dan Szymborski took a look at some potential impact call-ups in an ESPN Insider-only piece, and has Jesus Montero ranked as number one. His ZiPS system projects a .274/.328/.481 batting line for Montero at the big league level the rest of the way, which is pretty freaking awesome. Dellin Betances (4-3, 4.38 ERA) and Manny Banuelos (3-3, 4.42 ERA) rank fourth and fifth on the ten player list. Szymborski doesn’t say the teams should call these players up, just who ZiPS projects best over the remainder of the season.

Carlos Silva will pitch for Triple-A Scranton on Thursday, so he’s getting closer to the bigs…

Triple-A Scranton (7-3 loss to Lehigh Valley)
Kevin Russo, DH: 0 for 3, 2 BB
Dan Brewer, LF-RF: 3 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB – had just one hit in his last 17 at-bats (.059)
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 5, 1 PB, 1 E (catcher’s interference)
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 2 for 4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K – seven homers in his last eight games, including three multi-homer games
Justin Maxwell, CF: 1 for 5, 4 K – 60 K in 136 at-bats (44.1%)
Brandon Laird, 3B-LF: 1 for 4, 1 K
Jordan Parraz, RF: 0 for 3 – left the game limping for an unknown reason
Doug Bernier, 3B: 0 for 1
Ramiro Pena, SS: 1 for 4
Luis Nunez, 2B: 0 for 4
David Phelps, RHP: 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 4-2 GB/FB – 54 of 94 pitches were strikes (57.4%) … not his best night
Ryan Pope, RHP: 3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 Balk, 2-1 GB/FB – 30 of 50 pitches were strikes … wonder if they’re trying to stretch him out to 50-60 pitches so he can a multi-inning middle relief guy, though I could be (and probably am) completely wrong
Andy Sisco, LHP: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1-1 GB/FB – 17 of 31 pitches were strikes (54.8%)
Eric Wordekemper, RHP: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 1-0 GB/FB – threw just three pitches, one of which was a strike

[Read more…]

2011 Draft: Keith Law’s Mock Draft v1.0

Keith Law posted his first mock draft this afternoon (Insider req’d), and he has a surprise name going first overall: Virginia LHP Danny Hultzen to the Pirates. “I’m having a hard time seeing Hultzen as the best player on the board,” says KLaw, “but under Neal Huntington the Pirates have long considered value relative to cost in their drafts, sometimes preferring to spend less in the first round when they see opportunities to spend their savings on other appealing prospects in later rounds.”

He has the Mariners taking Rice 3B Anthony Rendon with the second pick, and the Diamondbacks grabbing UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer with the third. UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole falls all the way to … the Royals at five. As if their farm system needs more help. The Yankees aren’t included in the first round mock because they don’t pick until 51st overall, but you can still get a feel for who’s going where and what some teams are thinking.

Game 40: Hello Goodbye

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

The Yankees just got to Tampa yesterday but they’re already on their way out, flying up to Baltimore following tonight’s finale of the two-game set. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, the Yanks are just 2-5 at Tropicana Field in their last seven games there dating back to last season. Hooray for cherry picking. Here’s the latest group of guys that will try to get out of this funk…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B – shakes fist … give the guy a day or two off
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C – wow, five games in a row
Jorge Posada, DH
Brett Gardner, LF
Chris Dickerson, RF – he was called up and Rafael Soriano was placed on the DL, in case you missed it.

Ivan Nova, SP

Another weird 6:40pm ET start, but whatever. No YES tonight, the game is on regular old My9. Try not to throw the remote at the TV.

Yankees recall Chris Dickerson, place Rafael Soriano on the DL

The Yankees have recalled outfielder Chris Dickerson from Triple-A Scranton, placing Rafael Soriano and his balky elbow on the disabled list in the corresponding move. Another MRI apparently showed nothing but inflammation. The moves get them back to a normal four-man bench and seven-man bullpen.

Dickerson is a lefty batter, something the Yankees have lacked on the bench since Eric Chavez‘s injury. He was hitting .248/.370/.354 with eight steals in eleven attempts in Triple-A, and that’s pretty much his game: some power (career .178 ISO at the Triple-A level), gets on base (.380 OBP), runs a little bit (65 SB in 81 attempts, 80.2% success rate), and plays sound defense at all three outfield spots. Dickerson’s useful but not a savior, though the Yankees needed to get rid of that ridiculous eight-man bullpen.

The Yankees season in three acts

Remember the days when the Yankees would hit multiple homers every game, rack up a ton of runs, and end up winners? Yeah, me too. Those days seem so far away, even though the season isn’t yet 40 games old. In an attempt to soothe my soul from the beating it has taken in the past few days, I went back and looked at the game logs from this season. It does appear that the Yankees season has been divided into three unequal parts. They vary in not just results, but also emotions. It has made me realize that they were kind of building for something like what we’re currently experiencing.

Act 1: 12-6, .262/.342/.503 in 694 PA

Anothah homah! (Kathy Willens/AP)

The early season went so well for the Yankees. They lost only one of their first seven series, but made up for that with two short sweeps of Baltimore. They scored 109 runs in these 18 games, or 6.05 per, for those of you without a calculator handy. Most remarkably, they slugged 36 homers, or one every 16.8 at-bats. Some said that was too many, that the offense wouldn’t succeed long-term if it continued relying on the home run. Other said that as the home run rate dropped off, other aspects of the team would pick up — more doubles, more singles, etc. — and that would keep things moving. Little did we know what was in store.

Act 2: 7-7, .238/.333/.404 in 516 PA

Maybe if you, ya know, take a pitch, you'll not strike out (Kathy Willens/AP)

Every offense, even the league’s best, slumps. The Yankees hit their first slump of the season when the White Sox came to town. It seemed so easy at the time. They were scoring no runs, and the Yanks were scoring more than any other team in the league. But instead of pummeling the Sox, they ended up scoring two runs while allowing five in the first two games of the series. Even in the third game they got a first-inning three-run shot and nothing more. It wasn’t a complete loss, since they did score 4.36 runs per game, which is good for a slumping team.

Of course, that meant the homers weren’t dropping. They hit just 18 in those 14 games, or one every 24.7 at-bats. The problem was that none of the other hits were falling, either. The team batting average and doubles rate fell, too, and so the Yankees were stuck with a sometimes lifeless offense. It was a heavily skewed one, too, as they scored two dozen of those 61 runs in just two games. If not for a successful trip to Texas this could have been a lot worse.

Act 3: 1-6, .228/.310/.353 in 272 PA

Act 3: Shame (Mike Carlson/AP)

After a good team slumps it usually returns to form. The Yankees, however, managed to slump worse. Even in their sole win during this stretch, the first game of the Kansas City series, they managed just three runs. The team that played from March 31 through April 24 would have put up quite the crooked number. The Yankees managed only three, which worked on that night. But they wouldn’t be so lucky in the next few games.

Run scoring is down to 3.57 runs per game. Home runs are down to one every 34.4 at-bats, and doubles are even more scarce. Not that many hits fell in, in general. There’s really no need to rehash this any further, since we’re still living through it. Things have seemed better in the past couple of days, as they’ve scored 10 runs against two high-quality pitchers. But they’re still hitting under .200 with a SLG under .350. As Mike mentioned on the podcast, they seem to fall asleep after Curtis Granderson hits his nightly homer (he’s responsible for three of the seven homers in this span).

The ebbs and flows of a baseball season bring a range of emotions. With the Yankees it started with elation and then slowly descended into frustration, anger, and finally sorrow. There hasn’t even been time for complacency, since the team seems to change identities every other week. I know they have games to play every day, but for once can’t they think of the fans?

The only remaining question is of the team’s long-term identity. We’ve seen tumultuous starts before, only to then see the team stabilize as the summer rolls along. In some years, such as 2007 and 2009, they end up being the best offense in baseball. In others, such as 2008, they’re something less than that. While the Yankees certainly aren’t the team they’ve been for the past week, they might be that middling, frustrating team we saw before that. That’s probably the most frightening thing I’ve learned during the current skid.

Scouting The Trade Market: Carlos Beltran

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The trade deadline is still more than two months away, but you can be sure every team in the league has already started the process of scouting potential trade targets and what not. The Yankees waited until right before the deadline to bring in Kerry Wood, Lance Berkman, and Austin Kearns last season, but the year before they jumped on Eric Hinske in June, about a month before the July 31st deadline.

We’ll take a look at several players that may or may not be available come trading time between now and the deadline, starting today with Carlos Beltran. This series isn’t intended to give a definitive “yes” or “no” on a player, but instead we’ll just present some pros and cons to see if the pieces fit. Sometimes they will, other times they won’t. Let’s go backwards with this one, starting the cons before the pros…

The Cons

  • Beltran has missed a total of 145 games during the 2009 and 2010 seasons with knee issues, including what was initially reported as microfracture surgery.
  • He will earn $18.5M this season and also has a full no-trade clause. That works out to about $3.08M per month, in case you’re trying to figure out the proration.
  • Beltran happens to play for the Mets, and the Yankees and Mets don’t get together for trades very often. Certainly not for major players like Beltran, anyway. It’s been almost seven years since the Felix Heredia-Mike Stanton swap, the last time these two clubs made a deal.  The David Justice-Robin Ventura swap in December 2001 is the last trade between the Yankees and Mets that I would consider significant.

The Pros

  • Despite the knee injuries and concern about his ability to stay healthy, Beltran has done exactly that this season. He’s started 35 of the Mets’ 41 games in right field, including a stretch of 21 straight games. He played all nine of innings in both games of a double-header during at stretch as well as a 14-inning game later on.
  • We can’t rely on the advanced stats to measure his defense in right because it’s so early in the season (-2.3 UZR but +2 DRS), but my informal poll of Mets’ fans on Twitter says he’s been “surprisingly good.” Beltran was one of the best center field defenders in his prime, and I assume the instincts are still in place even if the foot speed is not. I guess the most important thing is that the knee issues haven’t turned him into Marcus Thames with the glove, he’s still playable in the outfield.
  • Beltran can still hit, sporting a .286/.381/.564 (.404 wOBA) batting line so far. Even if you remove that three homer game against the Rockies, he’d still be hitting .273/.373/.492 (.388 wOBA), which is right in line with his .282/.360/.495 (.371 wOBA) career line. ZiPS projects a .273/.362/.474 (.365 wOBA) performance from here on out, for what it’s worth.
  • He’s a switch hitter without much of a platoon split (.368 wOBA vs. RHP, .384 vs. LHP in his career) and has long been one of the very best baserunners in the game. Beltran hasn’t attempted to steal a base this year (understandable given the knee), but he still scores well in first-to-thirds, moving up on wild pitches, etc.

Even though the Yankees started the season with a pretty set lineup, it’s obvious how Beltran could help them. Nick Swisher isn’t hitting in right field, and even though most of us expect a rebound to come at some point, he’s shown in 2008 that a bounceback isn’t guaranteed over the course of a full-season. There’s also the DH spot that could be open for a myriad of reasons. Jorge Posada could continue to stink, the Yankees could decide Jesus Montero isn’t ready/Jesus Montero might stink/Jesus Montero might get traded. It’s not all that tough to see where the Yankees could use Beltran.

The Mets already have that $18.5M set aside for Beltran’s salary this year, and I’m sure they’d be willing to eat some of it to move him. The more they eat, the better the return, that’s usually how this process works. Since Beltran (and Scott Boras) offered his services to the Yankees at a discounted rate years ago as a free agent, I’m willing to bet the no-trade clause would be a non-issue. I’m not going to speculate on what it would take to acquire him, but I think last year’s Berkman trade is a halfway decent comparable. Beltran’s a better player this year than Berkman was last, so we’d have to adjust upward of course. That at least that puts us in the ballpark and not the parking lot though.

The injuries to David Wright and Ike Davis could either speed up or slow down the Beltran trade process, depending on your point of view. The Mets could hold onto him and try to hang around in the race (or at least until one of the other marquee names gets healthy), or Sandy Alderson could get a jump on everyone else and try to sell high on Beltran early in the season. Either way, he’d clearly help whatever team acquires him.